Tomas Hertl and the San Jose Sharks leap ahead of the Blackhawks in this week's Power Rankings. Credit: Getty Images
Records through Dec. 4
1) San Jose Sharks (19-3-5; last week-5) – This placement might come as a surprise but the Sharks have won their last six games in a row. Chicago has one more points (44) than San Jose but the Sharks have played two less games, so they get the nod here. There is plenty to like about the Sharks, who lead the NHL with a goal-differential of plus-34 and are 10-1-2 at the SAP Center (yes, that’s what it’s really called).
2) Chicago Blackhawks (20-5-4; last week-1) – Through no fault of their own (7-3-0 in their last 10 games), the Blackhawks dropped one spot but they should get over it. Chicago is an NHL-best 11-3-1 on the road and the 'Hawks have scored by far the most goals in the league (105). Back-to-back games Thursday at Minnesota, then hosting Anaheim on Friday should be a nice test heading into the weekend.
3) St. Louis Blues (18-5-3; last week-2) – The Blues have lost their last two games but that should only be a minor set-back for a team with the second-best goal-differential in the NHL (plus-31). The Blues are 11-1-2 at the Scottrade Center and three of their next four games are there so expect them to bounce back shortly. You have to feel for the poor Islanders who are walking into a very tough game in St. Louis Thursday.
4) Anaheim Ducks (18-7-5; last week-6) – The Ducks have stubbed their toe the last few weeks (3-3-4 in their last 10 games). They still haven’t lost in regulation at the Honda Center (10-0-2) but they are a troubling 8-7-3 away from home. You won’t find a harder task than Anaheim’s next two games: at Chicago on Friday, then at St. Louis the next night.
5) Colorado Avalanche (19-6-0; last week-4) – The Avalanche have won their past two games after suffering through a predictable letdown from their dream start. Colorado still leads the NHL in fewest goals allowed (52), which is nearly half of Edmonton (101), which has given up the most. Speaking of the Oilers, the Avalanche (9-2-0 on the road) kick off a three-game road trip with a visit to Edmonton Thursday.
6) Los Angeles Kings (18-7-4; last week-8) – It’s a good time to be the Kings after rookie goaltender Martin Jones made his NHL debut on Tuesday night and helped Los Angeles beat Anaheim, 3-2, in a nine-round shootout. Jonathan Quick’s injury has unlocked more goaltending depth than anyone associated with the Kings could have reasonably expected. LA is 6-1-3 in its last 10 games and the Kings host the hopeless Islanders on Saturday before leaving on a four-game road trip through Canada and Chicago.
7) Boston Bruins (18-7-2; last week 6) – The Bruins are still the top team in the Eastern Conference since they have played two less games than the Penguins and only have one less point (38). After its first lengthy break in weeks, Boston visits Montreal on Thursday - the first meeting of the rivalry in 2013-14 - then hosts Pittsburgh on Saturday and then back on the road to Toronto on Sunday night. In terms of facing clubs in the East, you won’t find a much harder three-game stretch than that.
8) Pittsburgh Penguins (19-9-1; last week-10) – Here come the Penguins who have won their last four games and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Pittsburgh vaulted ahead of Boston for first-place in the East, helped out by their conference-leading goal-differential (plus-23). We take Sidney Crosby for granted sometimes but performances like Tuesday - where he scored the tying goal in the third period, then game-winner in overtime - remind us how special he is in the NHL.
9) Minnesota Wild (16-8-5; last week-7) – Minnesota was fading a bit but it picked up a big 2-0 win vs. Philadelphia on Tuesday. Josh Harding made 21 saves for the shutout and the Wild will need more great outings like that from him. They have scored the second fewest goals in the West (70) and their goal-differential is only plus-3.
10) Montreal Canadiens (16-9-3; last week-13) – The Canadiens are one of the hottest teams in the NHL as they are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. No doubt goaltender Carey Price (12-8-2, .937 save percentage, 2.00 goals against average) has been motivated by talk of him being Canada’s starter in the Olympics. He’s won his last five starts and should have some marquee games vs. Boston on Thursday and Los Angeles on Tuesday on his home ice.
11) Phoenix Coyotes (16-7-4; last week-9) – The Coyotes have dropped back a bit in the Western Conference and these world famous power rankings. Still, they kick-started a big four-game road trip with a 6-2 win at Edmonton on Tuesday. At Calgary Wednesday is a very winnable game even in a back-to-back, but at Vancouver on Friday and at Colorado on Tuesday will be tough for a squad that is only 7-5-2 on the road this season.
12) Detroit Red Wings (14-7-7; last week-12) – Reports of Detroit’s demise were largely overblown for the NHL’s most consistent franchise of the last decade (think the Spurs in the NBA, Cardinals in MLB or Patriots in the NFL). They have won their last four games in a row, which is particularly impressive since Pavel Datsyuk (concussion) and Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disk) have been out with injuries. Single games in the NHL regular season can be mostly devoid of much meaning, but Detroit’s 6-1 beatdown of Boston the night before Thanksgiving was something else.
13) Vancouver Canucks (15-10-5; last week-14) – The Canucks have won their last two games despite the fact that they lost Alex Burrows to a broken jaw. It’s hard to explain how John Tortorella’s team is 10-5-2 on the road but only 5-5-2 at Rogers Arena. Ryan Kesler (14 goals) had two goals in Tuesday’s 3-1 road win at Nashville which has to make Team USA officials smile.
14) Tampa Bay Lightning (16-10-1; last week-12) – The Lightning have lost their last two games and they are only 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. On the bright side, by playing in the sub-par Eastern Conference they should still make the playoffs. Tampa Bay is 10-3-1 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and their next two games are there against non-playoff teams: Thursday vs. Ottawa and Saturday vs. Winnipeg.
15) Washington Capitals (14-12-2; last week-15) – There aren't many better options here. The Caps have scored the second most goals in the East (83) but their goal-differential is only plus-1. Michal Neuvirth hurt his leg in warm-ups on Saturday and was placed on IR, the earliest he can return is Saturday vs. Montreal.
16) Toronto Maple Leafs (12-10-2; last week-11) – No team (except maybe Tampa Bay, but they have a valid excuse without Steven Stamkos) is free-falling faster than the Leafs, who have lost their last five games in a row. The Maple Leafs’ last win was a 2-1 shootout triumph over Washington on Nov. 23. Three of their next four games are at Air Canada Centre, where they are 9-5-0.
17) Dallas Stars (13-9-4; last week-17) – Tyler Seguin is out with a concussion but the Stars continue to tread water in the best division in the NHL - the Central where all seven teams are currently over .500. Dallas is 5-3-2 in its last 10 games and they picked up a crazy 4-3 win in Chicago on Tuesday. Kari Lehtonen made 47 saves but that wasn’t even the most memorable thing since the clinching goal came on Antoine Roussel’s penalty shot in the third period. 18) Winnipeg Jets (13-12-4; last week-not ranked) – The Jets are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games and their 5-2 win at the Rangers on Monday was very solid. Winnipeg should enjoy a trip out of the cold to Florida on Thursday and Tampa Bay this Saturday. It’s sure to be another long winter in Winnipeg.
19) Nashville Predators(13-12-3; last week-19) – The Predators would be in second place if they were in the Metropolitan Division, instead of seventh (last place) in the Central. Nashville is 0-3 in shootouts and if it wants any prayer at making the postseason that has to get better. The Predators host Carolina Thursday before two winnable road games: at Capitals on Saturday and at Rangers on Tuesday.
20) New York Rangers (14-14-0; last week-16) – More than a quarter through the season, the Rangers have been one of the more underachieving teams given their talent. They extended goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s contract for seven more years and $59.5 million Wednesday. The interesting part is that lately he was benched for Cam Talbot and Lundqvist isn’t getting any younger (32 in March).
Follow Metro sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate